NORTH AUGUSTA — Few players in the Aiken area are as big recruits as North Augusta offensive tackle Jake Whitley. But the 6-foot-4, 315-pound senior put an end to several college's courtship Wednesday, when he committed to play for Georgia Tech.
According to Whitley – who also had offers from fellow Atlantic Coast Conference school Maryland, as well as Appalachian State, Marshall and Old Dominion – committing to play for the Yellow Jackets was an easy decision.
“It's in the ACC, is close to home, I love the coaching staff and the atmosphere and you can't beat the education,” the 2012 All-Aiken Standard first-team selection said of committing to Georgia Tech as soon as they made him an official offer. “It's a big relief. Now I can just focus on my senior year and team goals. I hope to win a state championship.”
Whitley said he hasn't yet made an official visit to the Atlanta college, but has visited the campus several times and has attended a number of football games. Now that he's committed, he plans on returning for the Yellow Jackets' game against North Carolina. At that time, he'll get the chance to visit the sideline during pregame festivities and get an even better feel for his future home.
Whitley said the Georgia Tech coaches have told him they see him as an ideal fit for their system, that puts more emphasis on athleticism over raw size. Although, his coach at North Augusta expects Whitley to continue to fill out in college.
“He's going to get bigger and stronger, and he's strong now and has great feet,” said North Augusta head coach Dan Pippin, who also serves as his squad's offensive line coach. “He's tailor made for them. He's got good feet and athleticism. For a lot of their lineman, they just have to be a good football player and that's what Jake is.”
While Whitley might be a prototypical Georgia Tech offensive lineman, there's no guarantee when he'll get to see action. Pippin suggested his protege might redshirt this season to continue to bulk up and learn the college game. Whitley said the Georgia Tech coaches haven't told him anything about their plans for him. He seemed more enthusiastic about getting the offer. But that doesn't mean he doesn't have goals.
“I want to fight for a starting position and get better every year. I hope to make the NFL one day,” said Whitley, who admitted the opportunity to play in front of his family made Georgia Tech more appealing. “They're extremely happy for me and the opportunity I have. They want me to do well.”
Whitley will join former teammate and All-Aiken Standard selection Parker Collins as North Augusta offensive linemen to play college football. Collins is in his freshman season at Appalachian State.
“It's huge for the program,” Pippin said of his players' success, beaming about Whitley's opportunity. “Anytime you go to an ACC school, I think it's great and it's great for him. Georgia Tech is a great program.”
Whitley remains undecided about a possible course of study at Georgia Tech. One area he expressed interest was health sciences. That is, if he isn't sidetracked by a career in pro football.
Noah Feit is the sports editor for the Aiken Standard and has been a professional journalist for more than 14 years after graduating from Syracuse University.